2014 Chimacum High grad drowns at Sandy Shore Lake

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader
Posted 6/15/15

UPDATED 5:30 p.m. June 15

A 2014 Chimacum High School graduate drowned Sunday, June 14 while swimming in Sandy Shore Lake south of State Route 104 in East Jefferson County.

Max G. Swenson, 18, …

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2014 Chimacum High grad drowns at Sandy Shore Lake

Posted

UPDATED 5:30 p.m. June 15

A 2014 Chimacum High School graduate drowned Sunday, June 14 while swimming in Sandy Shore Lake south of State Route 104 in East Jefferson County.

Max G. Swenson, 18, of Port Hadlock was discovered by divers and pronounced dead some three hours after witnesses first heard him yelling and saw him disappear into the lake's murky waters at about 5:30 p.m., June 14.

Swenson, who would have turned 19 on June 20, had been attending Washington State University, where he was a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, according to his Facebook Web page. The Port Hadlock resident's summer job was as a clerk at Chimacum Corner Farmstand.

The family has announced that memorial services are to be 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 23 at the Chimacum High School gymnasium.

Sandy Shore Lake is a popular freshwater-trout fishing spot and swimming hole on land managed by Olympic Resource Management, a Pope Resources company. It is located south of State Route 104 and accessed via a gravel road. There is no dock or boat launch, and no other improved facilities.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived on the scene about 10 minutes after the initial 911 call and swam to the location where Swenson was last seen. Due to low visibility in the water, the initial search was unsuccessful.

A boat and several divers were summoned to help. Crews from Brinnon and Port Ludlow fire districts responded, as well as volunteer divers from Port Hadlock family/band Lobo Del Mar, many members of which have extensive diving experience and often work with local sheriff and fire crews through Vessel Assist on salvage and rescue efforts.

“It wasn't great conditions,” said Eric Panzer, who arrived at the scene at about 8:30 p.m., June 14 with fellow diver Bart Buntin. “Sadly, I was the one to find him after about two minutes of looking. He was in 32 feet of water. It was dark, so I would not have had any luck without a flashlight. It was almost 60 degrees down there, which is warm. Three hours is a long time, but when it's real cold water, that can actually improve the chances of survival.”

Panzer said Swenson was found at least 300 feet from shore. He said Swenson had been swimming at the lake with a group of friends near the lake's road-access area, and had apparently set off to swim across the lake, likely becoming fatigued.

“In that situation, it's easy to take a breath and get a mouthful of water,” Panzer said. “The more you panic, the easier it is to take in more water.”

(This story is to be updated as more information becomes available.)

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